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How CJ Verdell's Injury Could Impact Oregon

What’s ahead for Oregon in the running game after CJ Verdell’s ‘significant’ injury?

Possibly the worst thing that happened to Oregon on Saturday wasn’t even the loss to the Cardinal, but star running back CJ Verdell leaving with an injury. Verdell has been Oregon’s best offensive player this season, and especially with the shaky quarterback play, the Ducks have been relying heavily on the run to move the chains. 

Head Coach Mario Cristobal was asked about the injury following the game, and his answer didn't sound encouraging. 

“I’m not sure how long it’s gonna be. It seems like it’s a pretty significant injury,” he said.

If this injury is long-term, that's a devastating blow to the Ducks, who were already suffering from many different injuries this season.

“It’s one of those years from game one we’ve had a lot of guys go down. It’s been really strange," Cristobal said of how banged up his team has been. "We’ve been slammed with a ton of injuries. But they are real and guys are gonna have to step up."

If the early indications are correct, Oregon will have to find a way to replace  Verdell in their offense, which will be almost impossible. Verdell has the most rushing yards from scrimmage of anyone on the team and is the clear number one option when running between the tackles. When gone, the Ducks are without their top go-to short yardage option.

Now let's look at the other options this Duck team has at the position. The clear cut number one back is Travis Dye, and he's been very good this season. 

But he is much better working in space and getting the ball outside the tackles than running between them. He will assuredly get the most time of anyone going forward, but someone else will have to step up big time.

Next up on the organizational chart are three freshmen: Trey Benson, Byron Cardwell and Seven McGee. Cardwell was the one to get some carries down the stretch of this game to give Dye a break, but we also saw McGee against Stony Brook and he made a big catch against Arizona. We've also seen Benson at a few points in multiple games. 

Perhaps all of them rotate and get opportunities behind Dye, but at least one of them will have to step up and become the second and third backs after him.

The one other wild card is Sean Dollars, who looked extremely promising at times last year including in the Pac-12 Championship game vs. USC. But he suffered a leg injury in the spring and Cristobal said that the team is hoping to have him back around mid season. 

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It's unclear exactly where he is in his recovery, but it seems possible that he could return at some point this season and if so that would be a huge development for Oregon. Dollars (class of 2019) is the most experienced back the Ducks have behind Dye. 

It's extremely unfortunate that it sounds like Verdell will be out for a while, as the Ducks leaned on him more than any back they’ve had since Royce Freeman. But the team does have options to replace him and it will be interesting to follow who steps up.

Cristobal is expected to speak with the media later this week, so be sure to check back for the latest on the injury. 

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Mario Cristobal updates injuries following loss to Stanford 


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